ORANGE — The results of the recount in the Orange County commonwealth’s attorney race are in, and 16-year incumbent Diana Wheeler O’Connell has hung on to her victory. She bested Orange defense attorney S. Page Higginbotham III by 28 votes, the same margin announced on election night.
Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Rusty Fitzgerald said that in the process of recounting the ballots, there were a few votes that “slid one way or another” — meaning that election officials determined that a slight mark next to a candidate’s name (that the machine didn’t register) should count as a vote.
But those additional votes mostly leveled out. While O’Connell’s margin of victory had dropped by a single vote back in November when provisional ballots were finalized, it returned to 28 during Wednesday’s recount.
The recount got underway at the Orange County Courthouse around 9:45 a.m. There were five machines running, with two-member teams of election officials assigned to each machine. Each candidate was allowed to have observers on hand, as well. A panel of three circuit judges also was present.
There was only one challenged ballot. Election officials recounting ballots for the Mine Run precinct disagreed as to whether a slight mark next to O’Connell’s name should count as a vote for her. O’Connell said her attorneys decided not to take it before the judges since it would not have changed the outcome of the election.
The recount wrapped up around 5 p.m. and the presiding judges made the results official soon thereafter.
Higginbotham released the following statement: “After today’s recount results, my campaign for commonwealth’s attorney of Orange County has come to an end. The final totals have Ms. O’Connell winning by 28 votes. We shook hands tonight and I congratulated her on her victory.
“I am incredibly grateful for all the people who supported this campaign with their time and donations. I am extremely proud of the campaign I ran and have no regrets. A race this close is a reminder that every vote truly counts and that we should never take for granted this great privilege and responsibility.”
O’Connell also weighed in. “It is good to have the process behind us and to have the situation settled,” she said.
“The Virginia statute governing the recount procedure is very precise and provides transparency and accountability. I am so impressed with the professionalism and and accuracy of Orange County electoral officials and those who served again as recount officials. Their job performance inspires confidence in the integrity of our electoral process.”